When the first Mercedes-Benz designed Sprinter arrived here in 2001, few expected it to become America’s new gold standard in cargo vans. But, it’s walk through interior proved a huge advantage over squat-ier Detroit offerings. Still, while the Sprinter does deliver in making work easier; there has always been a disconnect between the star on the grille and a less than premium interior. Well, that’s not the case anymore.
Once the Mercedes-Benz designed Sprinter was the only large, Euro-styled cargo van in the U.S. But today, they are facing stiffer competition with similar offerings from Ford, Nissan, and RAM. So, to stay ahead of this growing field, the 2014 Sprinter adds numerous updates to both stay competitive and move more in line with what people expect from the Mercedes-Benz brand.
Besides interior height advantages, the increasingly universal appeal of Euro-style vans extends to their ease of maneuverability in tighter quarters, they get better fuel economy, and overall make more efficient use of space.
The latest Sprinter includes more upscale materials to the driver’s cabin, and a host Active Safety Features including new Crosswind Assist.
Outside, retractable running boards are now offered to make frequent use of the sliding side door much easier. Crew Vans come with a back seat for 3, and 144 cubic-ft. of storage space. Both full cargo and full passenger layouts are also available.
The Sprinter’s ride is also vastly improved, not quite to family sedan levels, but if you’re accustomed to the old Econoline way of doing things; it’s a revelation. It’s not intimidating to drive at all, even for first time commercial van users.
Visibility is good, and a back-up camera is also available; that will be new to most van drivers, though a full suite of around view cameras would be even better.
Helping you stretch hard earned dollars a little farther is a new 2.1-liter 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine under a slightly taller hood. Productivity is 161-horsepower and 265 lb-ft. of torque. The 2.1 is aided by a new 7-speed automatic transmission, and the combo can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
The 188-horsepwer 3.0-liter V6 BlueTEC is still available as well, and in 2015 it can be paired with a new four-wheel drive option that can include a low range function for really tough work.
We put the new 2.1 to work at our test track. Thanks to plenty of diesel grunt, we worked our way to 60 in 12.0-seconds. The full ¼-mile grind had us feeling like we were putting in overtime, but eventually we clocked out at 18.7-seconds at 74 miles-per-hour. Brakes felt very strong with nice and straight stops from 60 averaging just 132-feet.
As for the much more important fuel economy testing, we averaged 19.3 miles-per-gallon in mixed driving.
With final assembly in South Carolina, the Sprinter can be had in many lengths, configurations and roof heights. Prices start at $36,990 for a short wheelbase cargo van. Our 2500 Crew Van with a pretty extensive options list was pushing 50-grand. Sprinter continues to also be sold under the Freightliner badge.
So, while the Sprinter may have gotten the Euro van ball rolling here in the U.S. it’s no longer the only game in town. But, the Sprinter of heavy duty players is ready to make sure Mercedes-Benz stays ahead in the workday game.
Torque: 265 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 12.0 seconds
1/4 mile: 18.7 seconds @ 74 mph
EPA: 19.3 mpg